Back to the future in Sheffield

As reported in The Guardian, a group of craftspeople have bought Sheffield’s Grade II* listed Portland Works, 100 years after stainless steel was first manufactured there.

Portland Works (Image courtesy of Tamsin Rutter/ The Guardian)

More than 430 people have raised over £300,000 through individual shares ranging from £100 to £20,000, along with loan from the Architecture Heritage Fund.

Following an estimated £1m refurbishment, the building will house individual workshops at low rents. And although cutlers will be replaced by furniture makers, woodworkers, an engraver, a knife maker, plus independent artists and musicians, it will help foster a new generation of ‘little mesters’ – Sheffield’s skilled works who helped drive British innovation a century ago.

Stuart Mitchell, knife maker (Image courtesy of Tamsin Rutter/ The Guardian)

I love this story; at a time of triple-dip recessions, falling AAA ratings and of banks unwilling to lend, it is genuinely heartening to hear about a community of industrious people willing to take punt for their own futures.

But it’s also great to see a listed building being renovated back to its original purpose, rather than converted into luxury apartments, or into an arts centre. It shows that heritage buildings can be ‘engines of growth’, not just museums to faded glories.

So next time I hear an urban planner or heritage consultant talk abstractly about the importance of ‘placemaking’, I’ll think of Portland Works.

Read More: The Guardian

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